Florence had me at “buon giorno.” I immediately took to the elegant beauty of the old buildings, cobblestone streets and welcoming trattorias. There are gelaterias on every corner, good cheap wine and cute Italian men who openly express their attraction to black women walking around the city LOL.
A few weird things about Florence that I’ve had to get used to:
- Restaurants charge you a “cover” just to sit down and eat. It’s usually about 1.50-2.00 euro and it’s added to your bill.
- Restaurants also charge for water! You can’t get the free tap around here – you’ll pay about 2.00 euro for fresh, cold mineral water to go with your meal.
- Soda is very expensive here. A bottle of coke runs about $3 in U.S. dollars. But Florence is still a tourist center, so this is really just a huge markup, methinks. When I bought Coke in the supermarket in Rome, it was about $1 U.S.
- You can’t get ice in your drink unless you go to McDonald’s or Burger King. So, guess where I’ve been going on these hot days?
Photo Gallery: Images of Florence
1. I Stayed at an Awesome Hostel
In Florence, I stayed at the most awesome hostel ever: Ostello Archi Rossi. In the last 2 1/2 weeks, I’ve stayed at five places and this one was the absolute best. Why? Art on all the walls, lovely courtyard, clean rooms (especially the bathrooms!), plus all the amenities. Free breakfast buffet, free (and reliable) wi-fi, luggage storage, laundry room, free water dispenser, cheap dinners. And it’s in the perfect location – only 5-minute walk from the main train/bus station in Florence. Like I said, awesome. And it’ll only run you about 26-30 euro per night! (Though I did splurge on getting my own private room a couple of nights so I paid a bit more for part of my stay.)
Photo Gallery: Inside Ostello Archi Rossi
2. I Ate Lots of Pasta
I actually don’t eat much pasta when I’m at home, but I’m making up for it in Florence! I am eating cheap most of the time, but I’ve “splurged” on a few nice dinners. One of my splurge dinners in Florence was at Trattoria Osteria dall’Oste. I had ravioli with spinach and sage butter sauce, ribollita (famous Tuscan vegetarian soup) and white wine (2 glasses for 3 euro!). Their bread basket was also a highlight – that focaccia was the best I’ve ever had. Plus, the service was excellent with a capital E!
3. I Took Advantage of Free Walking Tours
My awesome hostel (mentioned above) offered not one but TWO different free walking tours in the mornings. I went on both! We saw the Duomo, which was more beautiful than I thought it would be. Also a bunch of other churches and museums and sculptures and palaces that I’m hard pressed to remember now. It was cool to have someone explain what all these places were, though. The best thing about these tours was learning so much about the Medici family, the rich dynasty who ruled Florence for hundreds of years. Our tour guide told us stories, not just facts and dates, which I loved!
4. I Explored the Central Market
The central market in Florence gave me a foodie orgasm. There was so much to see…and taste…and smell. It blew my mind. I wanted to take it all home with me (well, everything except the meat LOL). I had an espresso inside the market for just 0.80 euro. The custom was to take your coffee standing up, so I did! I felt like a local. And it was delicious!
Photo Gallery: Images of the Central Market in Florence
5. I Took a Cooking Class
I booked a cooking class on Viator at the Food and Wine Academy of Florence and it was worth EVERY penny! (Shout out to @TaJye for telling me about it!) We started off with a leisurely tour of the Central Market, which included a very informative tasting of many of the main ingredients of Italian cooking – olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pesto, bread and cheeses. Then, we were off to the cooking school to learn how to make bruschetta, two kinds of fresh pasta from scratch (ravioli and pappardelle), plus tiramisu for dessert. The class and the instructors were so much fun! Because I love food and cooking so much, this was the #1 highlight of my time in Florence proper.
Photo Gallery: Learning to Make Pasta and Tiramisu at the Food and Wine Academy of Florence
6. I Made a New Friend
In Florence, I met some cool people at the hostel including a woman from the Netherlands who also happened to be involved with the nonprofit sector. We chatted during both of the walking tours and had a fun lunch together as well. She was also a vegetarian! It was great to be able to connect with someone my age on this trip for the first time – most of the people I’ve met and spent time with have either been much younger or much older than me. I have enjoyed my alone time on this trip, but every few days, I crave good conversation – preferably with someone who speaks English!
Ah, Florence. It was everything I thought it would be, and maybe even a little more. Next, I’ll be posting about the two day tours I took FROM Florence that were made of everything good and right in the world.
Ciao for now!
Read my previous Travel Diaries:
- Travel Diary: My First Day in Greece and City Circus Hostel
- Travel Diary: Exploring Monastiraki, Plaka and Acropolis in Athens
- Travel Diary: Shopping in Athens, Sunset in Santorini
- Travel Diary: 7 Reasons Why I Fell in Love with Greece (Especially Santorini!)
- Travel Diary: How I Almost Got Arrested in the Santorini Airport
- Travel Diary: My First Three Days in Italy and Why I Didn’t Like Rome